by Ann Dunn, Albemarle and Fluvanna County Coordinator, Virginia Bluebird Society
This year we have combined data from the Hammond, Kingston, Leaning and Minor trails within the Albemarle/ Charlottesville area with two new trails in Fluvanna County viz.. Pleasant Grove and the Monticello Golf Club . A total of 529 nest boxes were monitored thanks to the hard efforts of more than 40 volunteers at 45 different sites.. We recorded the fledging of 2531 native cavity nesters of which 71 percent were bluebirds, 25 percent were tree swallows, the remainder as usual, a smattering of Carolina chickadees, wrens and tufted titmice.
The overall picture of nesting activity was somewhat reassuring this season as the declines in activity seen in 2014 and 2015 appear to have leveled off. Bluebird nest box usage,(1.1 nesting attempts per box) and nesting productivity, (3.4 fledglings per box) were the same or slightly higher than last year. Nest box survival for the species was a respectable 77 percent of eggs developing into fledging birds. Parameters for tree swallows show a similar pattern. Tree swallow nest box survival was at 79 percent a big improvement over the all time low of 64 percent in 2015.
As always the weather played a role in activity. Thanks to a warm early spring this year the average first egg date fell on April 6, a week earlier that 2015. Unfortunately an unusually cold mid April may have reduced the survival rate of our first broods. Reports for last fledging dates indicate that the nesting season lasted an average of 123 days, ten days longer than in 2015.